Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED)

What is Crime Prevention through Environmental Design?

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED, pronounced sep-ted¬) alters the environment of blocks, neighborhoods, or even entire cities to prevent and reduce crime. 

CPTED works by:

  1. Taking away criminal opportunities 
  2. Showing would-be offenders that the neighborhood is cared for
  3. Building relationships among neighbors to strengthen social and cultural norms against crime 

Examples of How to Use CPTED in Your Neighborhood

The following strategies work by helping neighbors take and keep control of their space: 

CPTED theory is deeply rooted in community building. The following strategies are aimed at creating a positive neighborhood culture that reduces social motives for crime. They work by building social health, togetherness, and identity among neighbors. 

Define Territory:Neighbors make physical improvements, alterations or additions to their blocks and neighborhood that encourage ownership.

  • Uniform facades on a commercial corridor
  • Special neighborhood street signage
  • Special banners or flags attached to houses
Control Access:Neighbors limit entrance and exit points using physical features such as fencing and signage to encourage the use of space by neighbors and restrict the use of space by illegitimate users.

  • Fencing around a vacant lot
  • Alley gates
  • Signage that attracts users to a main entry point
Maintain Image:Residents keep their blocks and neighborhood well-maintained to show that the area is cared for and negative activity will not be tolerated.

  • Keeping block clean of litter and trash
  • Painting murals on graffiti covered walls
  • Transforming vacant lot into pleasant green space
Encourage Natural Surveillance:Neighbors use natural monitoring such as lighting and clear sight lines (as opposed to cameras and police presence) to put more “eyes on the street” and make illegitimate users feel uncomfortable.

  • Encourage neighbors to spend time outside
  • Trim bushes/brush to make it easy to see out and inside of windows
  • Make sure the block is well lit at nighttime
Support Positive Activities:Neighbors organize activities and events to make sure their spaces are being used for their intended purposes.

  • Promote regular programming in a playground or local park
  • Hold block parties and community clean-ups
  • Work with business owners to discourage disorderly activity in front of their shops
Enhance Relationships:Neighborhood residents participate in activities that will promote effective relationship-building skills. 

  • Community mentoring programs
  • Contribute to your neighborhood association
  • Programs for youth that help with relationship-building and social skills
  • Community-wide training on trauma
Encourage Connectivity:Neighbors actively connect with other community and city partners to build resources.


  • Work with media to publish stories about what your neighborhood is doing
  • Plan community events with neighboring community associations
  • Work with local universities to find student volunteers
Define & Celebrate Neighborhood Culture:Build neighborhood pride by holding events and activities that highlight neighborhood identity. 


  • Develop a tagline for your neighborhood
  • Create a public art installation that reflects your neighborhood’s history
  • Hold an anniversary event for your neighborhood

References and Further Reading

Jane Jacobs’ Life and Death of Great American Cities, 1961 (PDF)

Jane Jacob’s uses New York City as a case study of what makes urban neighborhoods work. Her discussion about safety laid the groundwork for CPTED principles. Most notably she makes observations about the importance of natural surveillance, or “eye’s on the street,” in creating safe neighborhoods and discusses the physical and social context in which natural surveillance is most strong. 

Oscar Newman’s Defensible Space: Crime Prevention through Urban Design, 1972

In a study of New York City’s public housing projects, Newman builds on Jacobs’ ideas to discuss the importance of using neighborhood design and architecture to facilitate an environment of social control. He discusses territoriality (clearly defined spaces of ownership), natural surveillance, and symbolic barriers (objects placed in the environment that signal that a space is cared for). 

SafeGrowth: Creating Safety & Sustainability through Community Building and Urban Design (PDF)

This Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) paper gives a summary of the most up-to-date information on CPTED implementation, including examples of how it has been used successfully to solve neighborhood crime problems through both physical and social interventions.